Archive for February, 2005

2/16/05: Does “Veteran Presence” Really Make A Difference To Young Players?

Wednesday, February 16th, 2005

Tomorrow, pitchers and catchers report!!!!!! Spring training begins. Winter is OVAH! For us in Houston, at least. Sorry about yall still having to freeze up north.

As y’all know, we signed Mr. Ex-Met, John Franco, age 44, with a surgically repaired (in 2002) elbow, to a $700,000 guaranteed contract. Like, WHY? Last year, he pitched 46 innings with a (UGH) 81 ERA+ (5.28 ERA for those of yall who prefer that number) with 36K and 24 BB. It’s not that he’s this GREAT improvement over last year’s lefty, Mike Gallo, who pitched 3 more innings with an ERA+ of 91. SO, other than guessing that he’s got nudie pics of Tim Purpura, it must be the Veteran Presence factor.

Veteran Presence is something that Stat Geeks In The Know like to sneer about,
could there be something to it?
Does the behaviour of one older, experienced guy actually affect the behaviour of younger, inexperienced males? In a positive way, I mean? Duh.

Well, many young pitchers have said that they have learned from veterans on the team. This past fall, I saw Roger Clemens talking to Brandon Backe and Pete Munro between innings during their starts, but Backe did well (at home) as soon as he returned from AAA and Munro never did improve. So I’m not real too sure that it did any good.

But I do think that the older can sure nuff be a good influence on the younger, IF the younger imitates the GOOD behaviour. For instance, this past Christmas, my husband’s cousin’s 16 month old son came to stay with us for a while. When he came, he didn’t know how to use a spoon, drink from a cup and he only said two words, Bulllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll and NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! But after watching my twins, who are two and a half, eat with a spoon and fork and drink from a cup, Bull wanted to do it that way, too, and he also started repeating as much as he could of what the older boys were saying. And he followed them everywhere (and tried to steal their toys, of course, and learned right quick that that was not real too good an idea…)

By the time he left 5 weeks later, he was saying about 20 words and was drinking from a cup and using a spoon and fork – left-handed just like the twins, even though he’s not a leftie. Being an honest girl, I won’t say he didn’t pick up a few bad habits from them, too. But the point is that he imitated them. And learned from them. And they’re just baby men.

So maybe it IS possible that our (lousy) relievers can learn to improve from John Franco (and our 2 other worn out old guys, Turk Wendell and Dave Burba) so our bullpen will be less lousy than it was last year. (Except for Brad Lidge, of course…)

Lisa Is Back. So Is Roy

Friday, February 11th, 2005

Hi everyone!!!!!

First, I want to thank Michael Hurta for filling in for me for the last few weeks while I dealt with a lot of family problems.

Second, I want to thank all the kind people who wrote to me with well wishes and encouragement. Your support really helped me through some really dark days.

To try to summarize the last few weeks in the Gray family,
1) my daddy is much better, out of danger and did quite well with his operation and he should do well. IF he takes his medicine…..
2) I still haven’t found us a new house, but hopefully, in the next few weeks…..
3) my mama’s sister died last week and Mama is starting to recover. Just got back from the funeral.

Speaking of funerals, the Astros didn’t sign a decent hitter (except Lance) or reliever over the past few weeks….

Sorry, trying to find something funny.
Mama and I flew back from the funeral last night – the plane took off near sunset and the view to the west was incredible – layers of colors – dark blue with a thin layer of dark orange, the a layer of lighter orange, then a layer of yellow then a much thicker layer of yellow so pale it looked almost white… Sound familiar? Well, I’m trying to take it as a sign from heaven that the Stros might could do better than I expect them to.

We did sign Roy to a 2 year contract – 5.5 mill this year and 11 mill next. We also signed Pete Munro and Tim Redding for about 700 K each. Fraid I haven’t anything to add to anything I’ve written about them in the past, except that Redding says that he’s developed a 2 seamer. Hope it helps.

Oh yeah, we also signed Trenidad Hubbard so we will have an OF in AAA who can hit a little. What a concept…..

The Race For #5 Astros Starting Pitcher 2005

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005

Guest post by Michael Hurta

The race for the #5 pitcher in the Astros’ rotation next year started yesterday when Nolan Ryan and other staff members of the team’s organization started the team’s voluntary pitching camp.
The early front runner for the rotation job is Carlos Hernandez, but he didn’t show up. The other top contenders did come, however: Tim Redding and Brandon Duckworth. Ezequiel Astacio, who Baseball America rated as the Astros’ number 2 prospect behind Chris Burke, came as well.

The camp lasts until friday, and I’m sure all three mentioned above hope that they will gain some knowledge to help the game a spot on the team. The others who showed up, including Troy Pratton (the team’s top lefthanded pitching prospect).

I have no clue what Brandon Duckworth needs to do to make it to the rotation, but I do know Tim Redding has the stuff. If this learning with Nolan Ryan can get him to master his control(ha! what’s the likelihood of that?), than he will easily beat Carlos for the rotation spot. As I sort of pointed to though, it is a huge “if”.

Now for Ezequiel Astacio. Us fans don’t yet know much of him, so I have garnered some information, and here is what I found:
-Baseball America said that out of all of our prospects in our organization, he has the best fastball and best control.
-Jim Callis, a Baseball America editor, projects Astacio as a number 3 starter in the future and possibly a number 2 starter.
-He had a 3.89 ERA in AA Round Rock with a 13-10 record last year.
-Last year, he had 9.5 strikeouts per 9 innings.
-In his minor league career he has an ERA of 3.31 with a record of 54-34.
-He is 25 years old, which isn’t that great for a AA prospect.

The Home Plate in Space Verdict: As it was AA that he showed his might in, he still has a lot of improving to do to make the major league team; just like Willy Taveras. We don’t know if Willy Taveras can yet hit major league pitchers, and we don’t know if Mr. Astacio will be able to come anywhere close to dominating major leaguers in 2005. He will likely be in the top of the rotation with Taylor Buchholz in AAA, and if he proves to be better than Buchholz in AAA, he will recieve a call up if an injury comes in the rotation or our #5 guy just doesn’t work out; or something like that. Even if not, he will probably be on the major league team when the roster expands to 40 guys.